This week’s Student Spotlight features Daniel Munt, a chemical engineering major graduating in 2014.
How did you get involved with Solar Decathlon?
My roommate a couple years ago helped to build the house for the last competition and at the time I was taking Solar Energy Theory & Application MT 518 and started to be very interested in Solar Energy. The next solar class, MT 528 System Design, we actually sized a solar farm for a local church and I thought the skills and information I learned in these classes could really help out in the Decathlon. When I heard Dan Tipaldo was helping to lead the next competition, I asked to help out and now here I am.
Are you excited for the Xpo in Irvine, California? What are you planning on doing during your stay?
I haven’t given too much thought to this because we still have to make it there. But, I look forward to touring all the other houses and learning about their system and house controls. I am interested in how other teams tackled each part of the competition through innovation and engineering.
What is your major and how are you contributing your skills to the project?
As of now I am pursuing a BE in Chemical Engineering with a certificate in Sustainable Engineering and a ME in Material Science. Chemical engineering has allowed me to better understand and design our Liquid Desiccant System. Sustainable engineering allowed me to understand solar energy at the macro scale and take a systems approach to solving energy needs problems in homes and communities. Through this certificate, we were able to better understand how to capture the “greenhouse effect” for the roof unit in our desiccant system and how to maximize the use of solar energy in homes. Material Science Engineering has allowed me to understand solar energy at the micro and nano scale and how solar cells and transistors are produced for modern electronics or solar panels.
What Solar Decathlon team are you a part of?
Chem E team.
What is your specific role in the project? What innovations have you personally made to the house?
The Chem E team is currently working a Liquid Desiccant system to dehumidify the house below the competition mark of 60% RH. Climate and humidity control falls under the comfort competition. The desiccant system also falls under the innovation/engineering competition since this is a brand new design. The concept of dehumidification via salt solutions is not new however, previous designs do not seem to be very energy efficient or affordable. What makes our product unique is its affordability and reduction of energy use through the utilization of gravity and solar energy. Our system reduces the needs for extra pumps and heaters for the regenerative (roof) unit by letting the sun evaporate excess water from the desiccant solution and draining the regenerated solution back inside simply by the difference in height. However, a backup heater will be used for cloudy days. The desiccant system will also fall under the energy balance competition by reducing the need to run the compressor in the HVAC system. A compressor is the most common form of dehumidification in homes today however they can be huge energy users. If we can run the HVAC system without using the compressor, we can save a lot of energy that may be used elsewhere in the competition or just simply saved!
Are you planning on aiding in the construction of the house?
I will most likely be doing research at Stevens this summer so I will help out building as much as I can!
Once the seniors graduate, do you think the Stevens team will be able to still accomplish it’s goals?
Yes, it may be more difficult but we have great seniors that have always been helpful so I am sure they won’t mind a phone call or two.
Do you have any ideas for spreading the news about Ecohabit?
Using social media, putting a link to our website on the Stevens homepage, and focusing on what makes our house unique and different from the other houses in the competition
Is this your first Solar Decathlon competition? If not, how does this experience compare to the one you had building Empowerhouse?
This is my first competition.
What skills have you acquired throughout the preparation for Solar D? How will you use these skills in your future career in industry or academia?
Collaboration with other teams who do not know much about your area of study was a little difficult but my team learned how to communicate our goals and process design in such a way that most everyone understood our project. Collaboration is necessary throughout life whether in the corporate world or in academia and the skills I learned through solar decathlon are invaluable for my future career.
What keeps you motivated to stay on the team and continue to work on the house?
Finishing what we started and watching it work in the house God willing, and winning the competition!